Know that we love ourselves dearly, and as such, it often difficult to see our own flaws. They are like internal diseases that the doctor does not know of, and so cannot prescribe medicine for.
So how can we identify our flaws?
1) We can ask the wisest, most prudent friend that we have to tell us about them, and in so doing they will be doing us a great favour. We should not feel sadness at what they tell us, but rather encourage them not to hide anything from us.
2) We should ask our family, friends and neighbours to tells us what our strengths and weaknesses are.
3) We should consider what our enemies say about us. By taking this into consideration we will be able to benefit from our enemies more than our friends because they will seek to highlight our weaknesses whereas our friends will seek to hide them. After this we will definitely avoid these flaws.
4) We should imagine that someone else has our character and see what we would admire and despise in them.
5) We should reflect on the consequences and fruits of our different characteristics so that we come to know the good that results from our good characteristics and the bad results that come from our objectionable ones. Honest reflection is both very powerful and insightful.
6) Measure all your deeds by the Shariah, measure them in the scale of justice and have them reviewed by insightful people. Only this can distinguish what is better and what is worse.
7) Read the stories of those who acted upon their knowledge and measure your actions against theirs.
SubhanAllah. This is truly confronting, challenging, sincere advice. How many of us take the time to ponder our shortcomings? How many of us question our own intentions and actions? How many of us take offence at the slightest comment made about our nature? Nowadays we think we know everything and that we are always right.
There were wise people who came before us who would actually consider their own selves to be the enemy on their path back to Allah. The path of Islam calls for self criticism and critical self reflection, skills that are rare in our times. I ask Allah to give us the strength to put this self reflection into practice, and to call ourselves to account before we are called to account. Ameen